NORMAN, Okla. - A specialist in intellectual disability has completed his testimony Wednesday in the penalty phase for a convicted murderer.
Alton Nolen, 33, was convicted of first-degree murder last week for beheading his former coworker, Colleen Hufford, in September 2014 inside of Vaughan Foods. This past week, a jury handed Nolen three life sentences plus 130 years combined on five assault charges for also attacking Traci Johnson and other employees during the beheading incident.
Hufford died as a result, but Johnson survived. The state is seeking the death penalty for Nolen.
Specialist Dr. Dan Reschly began his testimony Tuesday, telling the courtroom Nolen is living with a mild form of intellectual disability. Reschly said he came to the conclusion after an evaluation, which included Nolen's police records and academic history.
In court Wednesday, Reschly told the jury there was clear evidence Nolen was "low functioning" before age 18. He cited Nolen's academic records from his elementary, middle and high school years and described him as "far behind" many peers in his respective grade level.
According to Reschly, Nolen also had an "impaired understanding" of social cues and noted holding low-skilled jobs like his position at Vaughan Foods are well within the capabilities of people with a mild learning disability.
Evorn Jones, Nolen's former high school counselor, testified Tuesday morning he graduated from an alternative school in 2003. Nolen transferred Booker T. Washington in the 10th grade after failing six courses in 9th grade, Jones said.
However, she told the court she was not there to testify whether he was intellectually disabled. Instead, Jones used the term "undereducated" when she was cross-examined by the state.
Doug Brown, superintendent of Idabel Public Schools, was called by the state Wednesday. He testified classes Nolen took at Booker T. Washington were not "special education" courses, despite being held at an alternative school.
If the jury unanimously finds Nolen to be intellectually disabled, the death penalty will no longer be an option. If they cannot reach an unanimous decision or reject the defense completely, he may still be eligible for the death penalty.